24215 S Hwy 331
Santa Rosa Beach, FL 32459
Waterfront dining taken to the next level
Whether “Sitting on the Dock of…” or thinking about being “Down by…,” the bay is always
portrayed as a relaxing atmosphere with elements of nostalgia and comfort. Jim Shirley’s Santa
Rosa Beach waterfront eatery The Bay lives up to those sentiments exactly.
This family-friendly restaurant sits on a private beach on the Choctawhatchee Bay at the foot of
the 331 bridge. Between the cuisine, an extensive beer and wine menu, hand-crafted cocktails,
regular live music, and unparalleled water views from both the outdoor dining and bar areas,
The Bay is like no other restaurant in Walton County.
Shirley’s first local endeavor, Great Southern Café, was such a smashing success (and continues
to be, as evidenced by the wait during busy hours), the demand for more of his savory cuisine
resulted in the openings of The Bay, The Meltdown on 30A, Forty-Five Central, and Baytowne
The Bay’s prime location, fun atmosphere, and celebrated menu make it a favorite of both
locals and tourists alike. In short, Shirley knows the recipe for restaurant success.
“Outdoor seating is a must in Santa Rosa Beach,” he explained, adding, “What comes out of the
kitchen” is the most important attribute of all. And even though each of his concepts follows its
own playbook, Shirley said that there are certain flavors that, as a chef, he finds himself drawn
to: “smoky, salty, garlic-heat, tangy-acidic” and anything “from new sources.”
Lunch, brunch, or dinner
The mouthwatering, eclectic menus vary from dinner to lunch to brunch, and each presents the
diner with the difficult decision of choosing an order. The dinner menu presents a large
selection of small plate starters, including Fried Ellsworth Wisconsin White Cheddar Cheese
Curds (served with Hog Island dipping sauce), Point Washington Rolls (a Southern take on
Spring Rolls made with alligator tasso and poblano), and classic beach fare Crab Cakes (made
with jumbo lump crab and basil, cilantro, mint and sake buerre blanc).
It’s important to save room for signature dinner plates, or large plates, such as Faux Ya Ya (The
Bay’s take on Shrimp and Grits made with grilled fontina polenta cakes on a bed of arugula with
a sauté of pancetta, prosciutto, crimini mushrooms and cream, then topped with herb-sautéed
shrimp). Fried oysters are served with a smoked Vidalia onion tartar sauce, while the seafood
platter includes fried oysters, blackened shrimp and grilled fish. If the diner is wanting to stray
from coastal cuisine, the 14-ounce hand-cut ribeye, tender 8-ounce filet mignon, or the Bomber
Burger (with caramelized onions, an asiago cheese crisp and a roasted tomato) will satisfy
The lunch menu also includes fish tacos (fried fish loaded into corn tortillas with cilantro,
onions, and corn-tomato-green chili relish) and Thai pork tacos (crispy pork tossed in an Asian
sweet and spicy marine in corn tortillas with grilled pineapple).
Brunch is a special occasion in itself, and The Bay’s Brunch Menu happily adopts that
philosophy with The Bay Breakfast (bacon, two fried eggs, villa tasso potatoes, and house-made
cheddar, herb and bacon biscuit), the Crab Cake Benedict (served over fried eggplant and two
poached eggs with hollandaise), and Chicken and Waffles, with maple bourbon syrup.
There is even a special menu for the younger patrons, which includes such favorite items as fish
bites, fried shrimp, chicken fingers, grilled cheese and pasta with marina sauce.
A highly-celebrated sushi menu is also available and made fresh to order, including a spicy tuna
roll, a Kelli Roll (with ginger shrimp, spicy tuna, avocado, eel sauce, soy wrap, cream cheese and
extra sesame), and the Mr. Billy Roll (with yellowfin tuna, tempura crunch, green onion, and
spicy tuna on top). Also not to be missed is the Hot Mess Roll, made with jumbo lump crab,
spicy krab salad, and avocado, panko breaded and deep fried then topped with spicy mayo, eel
sauce, green onions and sesame seeds).
An extensive wine menu to quench every palette and a 12-draft beer system round out any
occasion nicely, and with regularly-scheduled special events and a beach bonfire with live music
every Wednesday night, The Bay is a memorable occasion just waiting to happen.
The Bay is located at 24215 Highway 331 South in Santa Rosa Beach, and can be reached seven
days a week from 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m., or on Sundays for brunch from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., by
calling 850-622-2291. Reservations are not accepted, and more information can be found by